Exploring health and variation of work place informality of women working within the informal sector in central Durban.
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The informal sector serves as a poverty reduction platform that provides paid employment for those who do not have adequate education and skills to obtain or sustain a “formal” employment or livelihood. Women are more likely to be found in vulnerable formsof work, and within the informal sector there are more women employed compared to men.Research has typically focused on how different forms of employment within the formal economy impact on the health of individuals, showing a relationship between employment conditions and health outcomes. This study aimsto explore how variations in employment in the informal sector may impact on the health of women.A qualitative study was conducted among women working in the informal sector in Durban. Initially, a snowball sampling approach was adopted,and a criterion sampling approach was used. A total of 18 in-depth interviews were conducted with waitresses, domestic workers, and street vendors, characterising increasing levels of informality. Thematic analysiswas used to analysethe qualitative research. The themes were divided,based on employment category i.e. domestic workers, street vendors and waitresses. The themes that emerged looked at employment, health, children’s health, health protection and informality. None of the women interviewed had medical health insurance asameans of protection, and were largely reliant on the public health sector. In addition to a lack of medical aid, most of the women were confronted with not being able to collect any form of paid leave,or did not have an additional income that could take care of them when they did not go in to work.Challenges in public healthcare facilities such as long waiting hours as a result of short staffing exacerbated the loss of income through hours spent away from their stalls in the case of street vendors, when they neededto seek health care. The study found that based on informality, government orientated funds like the Unemployment Insurance Fund only paid out to domestic workers and waitresses, yet at the same time not all of the women within these two categories were able to receive these funds. For street vendors the receiving of any form of reimbursement relating to health care was not feasible. ivWomen in the informal working sector faceddifferent challenges as compared to women in the “formalised/informal” working sector. Street vendors in the study were shown to be the most vulnerable participants,as they were faced with a lot of challenging factors like transportation, irregular working hours, not enough time to seek health care, no paid leave and no protection programmes to cover their health needs. There is a need to distribute adequate resources to public health care facilities,regardless of social status, as this provides quality health care for all persons.